“If it works, it’s obsolete” is how Hans Finzel opens this chapter. Our present methods are already obsolete because
1. The future is rushing toward us at breakneck speed. Some leaders, however, fear the future.
In 1829, when Martin Van Buren was Governor of New York, he warned President Andrew Jackson not to allow the ‘railroads’ to replace the canal system because serious unemployment will result, boat builders would suffer, and because canal boats are absolutely essential to the defense of the United States, and railroads carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour. Van Buren concluded arguments declaring, “The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” You can read the complete letter on page 202.
2. A leader’s concentration must not be on the past nor on the present, but on the future.
Martin Van Buren was fearful of the future and living in the past. The past has been described as a foreign country where they do things differently.
Past successes can be our greatest roadblocks to future accomplishments, because what worked in that foreign country of the past will not necessarily work today.
Autocratic leadership worked in the past. Now, the younger generation of workers want to participate in the decision making in a flat organization that has been democratized.
To concentrate on the future means what is a curse word to some: change. Change is inevitable; to not change is a sure sign of imminent extinction.
Once people said that cars would never replace the horse and carriage. Other said that the light bulb wasn’t really better than the kerosene lamp. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, people laughed him out of town. Leaders have to lead into the future despite the naysayers and opposition.
3. Vision is an effective leader’s chief preoccupation.
Leaders get paid to be dreamers. Finzel says this about his leadership, “I have very little influence on what is going to happen in my organization in the next six months, but I am making daily decisions that could have a profound impact on us five years down the road.”
Leaders, therefore, must make planning and thinking time. Some leaders ask in frustration, “How can I drain the swamp? How can I plan for the future when I’m up to my neck in alligators?” The proactive leader does not allow the tyranny of the urgent to be the enemy of planning for the future.
In this regard leaders are different, not better, than managers. “Leaders ask, ‘Where are we going next, and why we are going there?’ Managers ask, ‘How will we get there?’ We need organizations today that have this balanced dose of visionary leadership and effective management.”
4. Organizations are reinvented with new generations of dreamers.
The new generation of leaders is learners not know-it-all, closed experts who think they are the pros that everyone should learn from. The closed experts don’t learn and grow and change. Old tradition bound organization resting on their laurels are closed experts who get pasted by like Kodak was when they missed the paradigm shift to digital cameras. You can read the story on page 211.
How can a leader and his team of shareholders in the ministry create vision for the future of his/her organization?
Set Aside Time to Think About the Future.
Quarterly get away from your worksite and think about the next ten years. Keep a Future File to file your wildest dream. Do a vision audit by asking others to point out your strengths and weaknesses.
Develop a Fresh Vision Statement.
The vision should be realistic, credible, with an attractive future for your organization. Leroy Elims’ description of a leader comes into play here: “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do” (Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be).
Get Together and Set Strategic Goals.
The goals should be SMART:
Concentrate and Eliminate.
“Most churches are ineffective, not because they do too little but because they attempt too much.” Our motto cannot be, “Let’s do a little bit of everything.”
Read All About It.
Take time to read books about future trends by experts in your field.
Attempt and Expect Great Things.
I like this definition of vision by Richard Beckhard and Wendy Pritchard: “A vision is a picture of a future state for the organization, a description of what it would like to be a number of years from now. It is a dynamic picture of the organization in the future, as seen by its leadership. It is more than a dream or set of hopes, because top management is demonstrably committed to its realization: it is a commitment” (Richard Beckhard and Wendy Pritchard, Changing the Essence).